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Mind Trekkers: showing that STEM is open to all, one LN2 explosion at a time

As a so-called “Tech School”, Michigan Tech has their hands in many areas of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. Current Huskies and alumni make up some of the best scientists, engineers, teachers, writers, artists, CEOs, and researchers across the country and around the world, so it’s only natural that students would want to share the wonders of learning and STEM with others.

Mind Trekkers, a student organization here at Tech, has been promoting STEM education for kids of all ages, backgrounds, genders, and ethnicities since it’s foundation in 2009. The group’s main goal is to show kids that there are endless opportunities in what they can do for a career, and that science, technology, engineering, and math do not have to be boring. By presenting fun and educational hands-on demonstrations, Mind Trekkers show that anyone can do anything they set their mind to.

With some demos, kids are convinced that they can’t repeat what one of the Trekkers just did, but upon completing the task themselves, they are in awe of what they’ve done and realize that they too can do anything.

In history, men have typically filled the roles and careers associated with STEM, and while things are changing, there is still an imbalance in the fields. That’s fairly obvious to anyone visiting one of MTU’s dining halls or large lectures, as Tech’s infamous 3 to 1 male to female ratio reflects this imbalance.

Now in the 21st century, women have every opportunity available to men, so why is this still so uneven? While many groups work to shift the numbers to a more even scale, certain things prevent this from happening.

From a young age, boys and girls are separated, boys are typically given things like toy cars and science kits to play with, while girls are given dolls and craft kits.

While nothing is wrong with kids playing with whatever toys they want to, exposure to STEM is much more frequent in boys than girls because of the things commonly considered “masculine.”

Mind Trekkers provides an equal opportunity for every student to learn the same thing and do the same thing as well. The Mind Trekkers group is a diverse bunch of students from many different backgrounds and majors, so they show these younger students that the possibilities truly are endless for them, no matter their gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.

Trekkers don’t just show students how to have fun with STEM, either. Each Mind Trekker studies their demo before the event, so they can pull it off perfectly and know exactly what to say to make sure the students are learning and are interested in learning.

As the students watch in amazement, a Mind Trekker’s favorite quote is ready on the tip of their tongue – “It’s not magic, it’s science.”

This past weekend, a group of 15 traveled to Greenville, South Carolina while acting on behalf of one of their sponsor companies, Bosch, as they amazed with their traveling STEM roadshow at Greenville’s Imagine Upstate STEM Festival.

The Bosch Experience, Powered by Mind Trekkers, reached around 15,000 people at the festival in downtown Greenville, along with many other companies and groups.

The Mind Trekkers trailer was packed with demos sure to impress, from small things as simple as Nail Puzzle (where participants create a tent-like structure built out of nails by simply balancing them correctly) and Human Tuning Fork, which allows participants to hear the sound waves) to Oobleck (a large tub of a non-Newtonian fluid that seems like a liquid, but feels solid when pressure is applied) and the LN2 Explosion, which is a neat explosion crafted around liquid nitrogen’s extremely low boiling point.

The group amazed both kids and adults as they showed just how many opportunities are available, for those of any and all lifestyles and backgrounds. Each demo gives kids an idea of what they are and aren’t interested in and also can give them ideas on potential careers they might have never thought about before.

Also, as the organization is part of Michigan Tech’s Center for Pre-College Outreach, the group acts as a great representative for Michigan Tech and the CPCO’s Summer Youth Programs, which help expose students to the different career paths available at MTU.

As kids see these interesting demonstrations performed by approachable college students of many backgrounds that were kids themselves recently, they can see their future selves succeeding the way that each unique Mind Trekkers member does.

*Note: This article ran April 11

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